By Michael Romain
(Photography by Darryl Dano Fondren)
Unity Parade and Picnic
MAYWOOD, SATURDAY — In the morning, a parade. It commenced at 8th and School St. and ended at Connor-Heise Memorial Park on 10th and Washington, where a crowd of hundreds gathered for “fun, festivities and fellowship.” “We always see the negative in Maywood,” said Rodney Davis, a counselor with PLCCA’s summer work and violence prevention program. But this was something different, he insisted.
The festivities at 10th Park were the result of the planning and collaboration of PLCCA, Youth On the Move, Mothers Against Murdered Sons (MOMS) and the Eastern Stars, in addition to a host of individual and institutional sponsors. The partners, according to Davis, had one focus, one cause: the youth. Area young people were treated to free hot dogs, chips, pops, water, crushed ice, prayer, entertainment and school supplies – more than 200 book bags stuffed with enough items to fill a desk.
Stacey Forest, another coordinator with PLCCA’s summer youth program, explained that the festivities at the park also served as a sort of summer’s end bash commemorating the end of months of job readiness training and work throughout the community for young people ages 16-24. “If we’re going to love each other, we’ve got to stop killing each other,” said Forest, whose in the process of creating a documentary called “The Day After,” which chronicles the lives of some of the youth after the summer program has ended. She plans to release the movie in September.
Pastor Carl Mabins, born and raised in Maywood, heads the God’s Congregation Worship Center in Lombard. He went to Proviso East and Emerson School. He came out to the park to pray for the families gathered. “You drive through the neighborhood and see a sign of the no hope […] We have to get out in these streets and do something about it,” he said. “Believers need to stand up and make their presence known.”
The gathering in the park was officially named “The Unity Picnic.” Isiah Brandon, the president of Youth On the Move, Inc., said that the sponsors were wide-ranging. They included: Mayor Edwenna Perkins, City Point Church, Loretta Robinson, Village Manager Bill Barlow, Asst. Village Manager David Myers, Farmer’s Insurance, N.S. Precision, Sam’s Club, Mariella’s Banquets, John Wicks, Strategic Behavior Initiative, Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins, Wigits and MOMS.
Maywood Welcome Signs Unveiling & Old Timers’ Picnic
On the other side of town, at Veteran’s Memorial Park off of Oak Street, Maywood’s past mingled with her present. Berthy Finley, the mother of former NBA star Michael Finley, a Proviso East alumnus, rose to a wooden platform erected in the shadow of the library.
“Yesterday, ‘Lee Daniel’s The Butler’ came out,” she said. “Mike is the executive producer […] I used to be the mother of an NBA player, now I’m the mother of an executive producer. Maywood has done my son well!”
Grady Rivers, former District 89 school board president, ascended the short platform in lieu of his brother, Glen ‘Doc’ Rivers, NBA champion coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. “Maywood means so much and has been so good to us,” he said, echoing the sentiments of Finley.
Hundreds of other people were gathered under a large white tent to commemorate the lives of notable Maywoodians and former Maywoodians, whose names are now etched into fourteen entryway signs – each representing different sectors of society – placed throughout the Village. The signs were unveiled as the annual Old Timers’ Picnic sizzled throughout the grounds.
Some of those notables were in attendance to see their names unveiled. Mike Woodard is the former second baseman for the San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox and son of Jeri Stenson, the curator of the West Town Cultural Museum and president of the Maywood Historical Society. His brother, Jimmy Woodard, is an actor who’s appeared in such films as “The Five Heartbeats” and “Sister, Sister.” Both of their names are recognized on signs.
“It all started for me right over here,” Mike said, pointing toward the baseball diamond just east of the stage. “I went from that baseball field to that pool – back and forth […] Constantly,” he said.
Chris Brown, a Maywood police officer and the father of NBA champion Shannon Brown, pointed out Maywood’s role in four consecutive NBA finals. In 2007, Michael Finley won an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs; in 2008, Doc Rivers won an NBA title with the Boston Celtics; and in 2009 and 2010, Shannon Brown won back-to-back titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. “No [community’s] ever done that,” Brown said.
In an optimistic nod to the future, Lennel Grace, who was onstage representing notable architects with Maywood affiliations, such as John Van Bergen and Walter B. Griffen, said that the Village’s architectural heritage is not just history. It’s something that’s alive and present. In fact, such is its vitality that, according to Grace, representatives with the Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood want more of its employees to move into town. “Maywood has great houses!” Grace said.
Trustee Audrey Jaycox hoped that the signage would have a ripple effect with younger generations. “[The signs] will send a message to kids they they’ll be acknowledged if they achieve,” she said, before recognizing a historical milestone that nearly got obscured in the day’s festivities. “We have our first African-American female mayor in Maywood present,” she said, acknowledging Mayor Perkins.
Trustee Michael Rogers reinforced Trustee Jaycox’s hope that the presence of the signage throughout the community have an intangible impact beyond their physical presence. “Whereas these signs are small, they’re huge in effect.”
As the ceremony went on and a while after it ended, the 18th Annual Old Timers’ Picnic was in full effect. Senita Gillespie Simpson lives in Bolingbrook, but grew up in Maywood. Simpson is a 1967 alumnus of Proviso East High School. “I live in Bolingbrook, but Maywood is home,” she said, before listing some of the ‘old time’ families with whom she grew up – the Sykes, the Hilliards, the Byrds, the Linyards…
Billy Allen was the starting point guard for Proviso East on its 1969 state championship team. Jim Brewer, Doc Rivers’s uncle and a former NBA player himself, was also a member of that team, along with Walter William, Harvey Roberts and Pete Bozeous. Allen, proudly donning in an athletic blue and white jogging suit, insisted the names of the other guys on his starting lineup be mentioned along with his.
“That [championship] was one of my greatest achievements,” he said. “And [the people in Maywood] don’t forget. They won’t let you forget.” VFP